In 2012, University of Kansas Natural History Museum palaeontologist Michael S. Engel was sent an image from his colleagues in China, and he had never seen anything like it.  An impression of a gigantic fossilized flea.  Working with his colleagues, the team managed to confirmed that the initial impression, followed by eight other specimens, were authentic and dated them to between 165 million to 125 million years ago – making them the oldest fleas on record.
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Until these mammoth specimens were identified, the oldest know example of a flea were from only 45 million years ago, and looked fairly similar to today’s household pest.  The fleas found by Engel and his team were both older and far more formidable.

“They aren’t the tiny things you flick off your dog or cat,” he says. “These are giant critters; some are almost an inch long.”

These Jurassic-aged fleas had serrated pincers to penetrate the thick skin of dinosaurs, and probably evolved to feed on feathered dinos, early mammalians, and more.  The parasites age suggested they were able to continue after the Cretaceous and haunt the dinosaur’s descendants, birds.

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